I have to take issue with yesterday’s entry from my friend and colleague Bill Breen. If you live in Boston or New York or Washington, you’ve heard any number of variations over the last three days (amid the din of collective wailing and gnashing of teeth) on Bill’s essential thesis — that is, Bush voters are pathetic losers. And I’ve got to say, it’s a pretty arrogant stand.
My own vote was for John Kerry — a function of my disenchantment with the President’s management of and explanation for the war in Iraq, and also of his stands on federal funding for stem cell research and other so-called social issues. Was that vote courageous? I don’t think so. It just represented my sum calculation of what was right.
We (I’ll lump myself in, for convenience if not complete accuracy, with the liberal urban East Coast establishment) look out at the South and Middle West and imagine a bunch of ignorant wackos voting against their own interests, which we equate with ours. Beyond being unfair, that’s such dangerous short-sightedness.
Why can’t we take these people and their opinions seriously? Many of them weren’t voting on Iraq and terrorism, or on the economy. For them, this was about abortion rights, gay marriage, cloning, and stem-cell research funding. Why do we imagine that a considered vote one way or another on these questions isn’t in one’s self-interest? Is self-interest just about a job and better schools?
Clearly not, since so many of us rail about Iraq and about America’s deteriorating standing in the court of world opinion. We recognize, on some level, that part of self-interest is about other-interest. We care about how the world, not just our little chunk of it, is hurtling forth.
Are the evangelical Christians that, by some counts, make up a third of this nation opposing abortion rights and gay marriage out of fear? I doubt it. They’re thinking about the future of their society and saying, “I don’t much like where we’re headed.” Agree with it or not, that seems to me a vote that’s courageous enough.
The problem with the Democratic Party is it refuses to see the majority of Americans as anything but a joke. Time to start listening.